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NSW power plan could spark legal fight, coal miner Trevor St Baker warns

Power baron Trevor St Baker says investors would be considering legal action against the NSW government over its controversial $32bn energy plan which has sparked a spending freeze and raised concern over the future of the state’s coal plants.

Mr St Baker, a co-owner of the Vales Point coal plant in NSW’s Hunter Valley, said the “gross intervention” by the NSW government into the power sector effectively represents a change of electricity law.

“The gigantic intervention into the electricity market in NSW – if not tempered with reality in how to operate and manage and regulate a complex open and competitive market – it has to be seen as a massive ‘change of electricity law’, which will have investors seeking legal redress against the government,” Mr St Baker said on Tuesday.

NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean has announced a plan to add 12 gigawatts of renewables backed up by 2GW of storage with the government to underwrite investment to ensure enough supply is in place when coal plants retire over the next two decades.

However, there is concern costs will be passed to consumers. Meanwhile investors like AGL Energy have pulled back from sanctioning gas and battery deals due to uncertainty over how the state’s plan may hinder investment returns.

Mr St Baker, a major shareholder in Brisbane electric vehicle charging innovators Tritium and Evie Networks, said he was concerned by the NSW government move.

“It will have minimal contribution towards the replacement 24/7 dispatchability and essential system support and reliability services provided by the existing synchronous coal-fired generators,” Mr St Baker said.

The Vales Point coal plant is due to close by 2029 although Mr St Baker has previously suggested it could stay open for two decades longer if required.

Origin Energy chief executive Frank Calabria said he backed the decision made by AGL Energy to pause its NSW investments.

“I think it’s appropriate that those that are investing would wait to see what the rules being set by NSW would be. So, I think it’s a sensible set of decisions,” Mr Calabria told a business conference on Tuesday.

“That it’s co-ordinated over the whole national energy market is important as well. But it is sending a signal of what investment is required in the NSW market as well.”

Source: The Australian